Buddhism religion and violence

This illustration picture taken on June 24, 2013 in Bangkok shows a man reading a copy of the July 1 issue of Time magazine carrying a picture of controversial Myanmar monk Wirathu on its cover. (Photo: AFP)Wirathu, who describes himself as the "Burmese Bin Laden", has used speeches on social media to spread the message of the '969' movement - an ultra-nationalist group characterized by one media outlet as "Myanmar's Neo-Nazis".

One of their campaigns involves the demand that the local Buddhist population displays '969' stickers and posters in shop windows, homes and on public transport. The three digits have even been spray-painted on the burnt out remains of Muslim-owned stores. Wirathu has also called for the remaining Muslim-owned businesses to be boycotted and inter-religious marriages to be restricted.

Myanmar Buddhist monks stage a rally to protest against ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims and to support Myanmar President Thein Sein's stance toward the sectarian violence that took place in June between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, in Mandalay, central Myanmar, on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)Junta legacy

Many commentators question why a strictly non-violent religion has been so easily used to stir up such hatred. Some think that Myanmar's recent past under almost five decades of military dictatorship has played a large role.

"People didn't get protection from the state, under the military junta, in fact the state was the threat, " said Debbie Stothard from the human rights group ALTSEAN. "Your religious identity and ethnic group became a source of protection and that identity is still very important."

Some Buddhist monks have endorsed religious hatred

Stothard told DW that a sense of fellowship explains why Myanmar's dominant religion has become an entry point for the creation of an extremist nationalist movement against Muslims who make up four percent of the population.

Hatred spreads

Sri Lanka, another Buddhist majority country, has seen several Buddhist monks endorse religious hatred. In April last year, some joined the storming of a mosque claiming it had been built on sacred Buddhist land. Earlier, a nearby Muslim shrine was demolished by a crowd led by a monk.

"It is fear that fires up this anger and it is often politicians that are behind it, " said Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa, one of the founders of the Bangkok-based International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

In Sri Lanka, one extremist Buddhist group (Bodu Bala Sena) has the support of Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In Myanmar, one of the key people spreading hatred on social media is reportedly a director in the president's office, who goes by the nickname Hmuu Zaw.

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Popular Q&A

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Who was the founder of the religion Buddhism?


"... Light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds be reproved". - Jesus (John 3:19-20)

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Why do you suppose Buddhism became the dominant religion of the Far East without violence?

Does this indicate anything to those of the Abrahamic religions who believe religion is best spread by the sword?

Buddhism was quite eagerly spread by travelers to the entire region, much like our churches send out missionaries today.
It's not like they just sat back and waited for disciples to come to them. While they never used the sword to spread Buddhism, they were enthusiastically trying for converts all the time.
People don't understand this because Buddhism seems so mild and peaceful, but they were a missionary force.

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What religion is like Buddhism?

Hinduism is like Buddhism because Buddhism was actually born of Hinduism; they are yogas meaning they both practice an unity of god through the mind, body, and spirit.
Jainism is very much similar to Buddhism . The concepts of karma, dharma & moksha are the same in both religions. Jains also do not believe in any one great god or creator . It says that good deeds and non-violence, truth are the key to happiness.

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